Animal shelter accused gunman refused bail

Detectives on scene at the Lost Dogs'' Home. Pictures: STEWART CHAMBERS 225618_04

By Mitchell Clarke

A gunman dressed in military tactical equipment who allegedly kidnapped a young woman and threatened her with an assault rifle at the Cranbourne West Lost Dogs’ Home has been refused bail.

Tony Wittman, 44, faced the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Wednesday 13 January, charged with kidnapping, false imprisonment, aggravated burglary, armed robbery and firearm offences.

The court heard Mr Wittman allegedly returned to the shelter to retrieve his missing cat on Tuesday 12 January, the morning after the alleged attack.

The night prior, Mr Wittman is accused of cutting through the rear fence of the site and walking through the property with his assault rifle at the “threat position”.

His victim, a 23-year-old animal ranger had just parked in the carpark off Thompsons Road, when she was allegedly ambushed by the armed man, at about 10.45pm.

The victim first mistook him for a police officer but he quickly began making demands, the court heard.

Detective senior constable Joanne MacDonald from the Casey Crime Investigation Unit (CIU) told the court Mr Wittman allegedly said to the young woman: “co-operate or I’ll shoot you”.

He allegedly led the woman into the shelter and forced her onto her knees so he could cable tie her arms, before asking her about cats.

The victim asked her alleged captor if she could make a phone call, before he told her to “count to 100”, so he could flee the scene.

No animals were harmed or taken.

The victim, who wasn’t physically injured during the incident, was able to free herself before calling her boss, who notified police.

A large police presence, including members from the Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) and the Dog Squad, descended on the property on Monday night.

Mr Wittman was eventually charged on Tuesday night with a raft of offences. As part of their investigation, police also executed search warrants in Langwarrin and Carrum Downs, where they seized three firearms.

DSC MacDonald told the court Mr Wittman had allegedly dumped multiple bags containing various military style clothing and firearms in nearby bushland after the alleged attack.

The morning after, he returned to the scene where police remained, to collect his cat, which he said was a “support cat” for his friend. He was later arrested that day.

The court heard Mr Wittman appeared to have a “fascination with firearms and military equipment”, which he boasted to police that he can “easily access”.

He was heard saying the media had “exaggerated” the story, which as a result had made him fear for his personal safety.

Mr Wittman, who suffers PTSD from military service in the mid 1990s, requested to be sent to a psychiatric facility if bail was refused.

“I would like an opportunity to try and help myself and get the help I need,” he said in his bail application.

He was deemed an unacceptable risk to the public and was refused bail. He will return to court next on 7 April.